Harrowing of Hell

The Harrowing of Hell.

The Harrowing of Hell is an event in Christian mythology, derived from biblical exegesis and found in the Apostles' Creed and the Athanasian Creed, which states that Jesus descended into Hell before being resurrected in order to visit the realm of the dead to save those who came before his earthly ministry.

In this way, the taint of Original Sin was remedied for the dead, which allowed Jesus to defeat Satan and throw open the doors of Hell for all eternity, allowing the souls of the faithful to ascend to Heaven.

The doctrine has a twofold usage: first, it refers to the idea that Christ descended into Hell, as expressed in the Creeds, and, secondly, it includes the rich tradition that developed in later centuries, asserting that he triumphed over inferos, releasing Hell's captives, particularly Adam and Eve, and the righteous men and women whose stories are recorded in the Septuagint. However, these medieval versions come more from the Gospel of Nicodemus.

For fifteen hundred years all Christians believed this. But in the sixteenth century John Calvin rejected this understanding of this article of the Creeds, calling it “childish.” He offered an innovation, proposing that the “descent into hell” meant that during the three hours on the cross, Christ’s soul descended into the hell of damnation, and was subjected to torments there from the wrath of God, the fear of eternal damnation, and the devil’s power.